Review: At All Costs – powerful theatre of witness and testimony of Battle of Delville Wood- Peter Terry’s play is poignant and emotional- beautiful storytelling theatre

What: At All Costs
Writer/performer: Peter Terry
Director: Janice Honeyman
When: November 1-5, 2022
Where: Galloway Theatre, Waterfront, Theatre School, Corner Port & Alfred Roads
Cape Town, 8001
Tickets: R150 and R120 for students and seniors

Producers: Janice Honeyman and Peter Terry    

At All Costs, the play by Peter Terry, directed by Janice Honeyman, is on at Galloway Theatre, Waterfront Theatre School, V & A Waterfront until November 5, 2022. It was a privilege to see the legendary Peter Terry on stage in the play he wrote, about a survivor of the Battle of Delville Wood in Northern France, in 1916, during the First World War.

It was a senseless war, as he says in a recent interview on my website, The Cape Robyn, “men who are forced into killing other men on behalf of faceless politicians.”  [] And in 2022, sadly, this is still happening as we watch the war in Ukraine on our TV screens – in full colour.

Peter’s character, David Wells is a survivor of the battle. He fought in Delville Wood, as part of the 1st South African Brigade. They were attached to the 9th Scottish Division. David Wells – inspired/based on real people – was in the woods for five days and was wounded. The play is set in 1970, when David Wells is in his 70s and he returns to the scene of the battle; accompanied by his daughter. It is a clever theatrical device. Peter Terry is in his 70s and his character is also in his 70s – which is why it is set in 1970. As a 19 year old, the survivor was a soldier in the battle and now he is returning for the first time:  “It has taken me 50 years to face my fears.” [See interview for more on time frame]

As David Wells tells us – the audience – historical facts do not convey “truths” – of being there. Tenderly written by Peter Terry, the play conjures up vivid images – the verdant forest – the soaring trees – washed by blood; “the stench of war”. Even with war, the soldiers were cognisant of the majesty of the woods, the birds chirping, the colours. In those woods, “time was meaningless”.  It was kill or be killed and hold on to the wood, “at all costs.”  And at the end, it was a wasteland.

The play has received acclaim in its tour, around South Arica and deservedly so. It is 45 minutes of taught storytelling.  As a director, the story is core to Janice Honeyman’s work. At All Costs is  theatre, stripped back to the story, with minimal props. Peter Terry holds us in his hands as he conjures up what it was to be caught up as a 19 year old in the woods, with its towering trees. This play is powerful theatre of witness and testimony. 

It is great to see Peter Terry, who is in his 70s (but looks decades younger) on stage. As an actor and writer, he is a legend in the industry and with Janice Honeyman on board, he has written and produced this poignant and moving play and is touring SA. Bravo to thespians in the over 70 group.

On tour: Legendary actor and writer, Peter Terry is on tour with his acclaimed play, At all Costs. The premiere season of the play in Cape Town, is at the Galloway Theatre, November 1-5, 2022. Pic: © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen. Book here:
Memorial in Cape Town: This memorial to the Battle of Delville Wood is in The Company’s Gardens, Cape Town. The memorial is a replica of the memorial,designed by Sir Herbert Baker, in Deville Wood, Northern France. The battle was in 1916, during the First World War. Thousands lost their lives – including soldiers from the 1st South African Brigade. They were attached to the 9th Scottish Division. South African actor/writer, Peter Terry’s play, At all Costs, has its centre a South African survivor of the battle who goes back to the woods and relives his five days in hell. Image © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.
Tribute stone: Memorial to the Battle of Delville Wood is in The Company’s Gardens, Cape Town. Image © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.

✳Featured image – Peter Terry takes a bow on November 2, 2022, after the performance of At all Costs, at The Galloway Theatre, Cape Town. Image © TheCapeRobyn/Robyn Cohen.

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